Film Review: Spectre (2015)

There are going to be so many opinions flying around regarding the verdict on Spectre, I may as well give you a two-word review right here and now and spare you the effort. But I won’t. Because the prevailing question from audiences is inevitably going to be “Is it as good as Skyfall?” and evaluating Bond 24 is not that simple. It is a very different beast to Daniel Craig’s rather dark Bond portfolio. It is also very, very good.

Spectre marks a return to the classic tropes of Bond folklore: opening with fancy dress, populated with devilish, grinning villains and their hulking henchmen, and intensified with convenient gadgets and unlikely escapes from grand execution plans.

Despite the return of these Bond archetypes, this is not a Sean Connery film, nor a Pierce Brosnan film, though there are nods to those incarnations. Thank god it’s nothing like Roger Moore. No, where the Welshman was smooth, Brosnan slick, Craig’s Bond has ever been steely and brash, and he remains so. Director Sam Mendes’ unmistakable mark on the effortless style and action sequencing is also thankfully still intact. We still have the fractured Bond from Skyfall – only in this highly collaborative and visually inventive screenplay from John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth, he seems newly invigorated by a new purpose. He spies an end, and is even humoured by the prospect at times.Spectre poster

Tipped off by a posthumous message from the old M (Judi Dench), Bond defies the grounding orders of a frustrated new M (Ralph Fiennes) when he seeks out to unearth an organisation whose influence dwarfs that of past villains. MI5 has been on a downward trajectory since Craig’s Bond first entered the picture, and here it is at the risk of being completely supplanted by a new global intelligence gathering and sharing initiative that would see MI5 defunct. So while Bond wages his war to discover the root of all his life’s pain – in the process seeking the help of Mr White (Jesper Christensen), whom we first met in Casino Royale – M, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are left to man the boat in London.

Jumping from a patient but thrilling opening sequence in Mexico City, back to London, to Rome, to Austria, to Morocco, the globehopping is prevalent as you’d expect, making thrilling use of almost every landscape and destroying almost every mode of transport imaginable, to ensure that the pace never slows. In what was touted as being a final chapter of a traumatic lead-up for 007, it might surprise some to find that Spectre is by far the funniest of Craig’s films, which may delight those hoping for a return to lighter days and disappoint others hoping for more of the same. Spectre still has a serious edge, but the humour and heightened reality serve to enhance the playfulness in what is quite a long film over two and a half hours.

This more traditional Bond approach does come with a few casualties, however. As a result of the breakneck pace, some of the highly qualified cast are underutilised. When an actor like Christoph Waltz doesn’t quite hit the mark as the villain, you can’t help feeling a little let down, as we probably should be with the fleeting presence of Monica Bellucci. That said, the always impressive Lea Seydoux proves so again (though the ghost of Eva Green‘s superb Vesper Lynd looms large), and it’s fantastic to see Whishaw with more screen time as he is a delightful Q.

I heartily enjoyed this from start to finish. And if the tone of finality coursing through Daniel Craig’s fourth Bond film is anything to go by, this would be a fitting end. Here’s hoping it’s not.

Spectre is in cinemas from November 12 through Sony Pictures

4.5 blergs
4.5 blergs

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